At a time of great fear in America when the nation seems in many ways to be grappling with profound questions about its identity and values, one question has repeatedly haunted the discourse: "Is rocker Ted Nugent going to kill me?"
This is a tough question, one especially hard to discuss with children, as Ted Nugent's great passion about things related to weaponry, archery and dead animals has made them wonder if they might themselves ever be at the receiving end of Nugent's wrathful judgment of all things not him.
"It's a slippery slope question," says Tennessee State University criminologist Ben Harper. "We know that Ted Nugent is a powerful advocate for guns. A really loud, forceful, inflammatory advocate for guns. But we just have no proof he is going to kill us."
Nugent, who was known for wild 1970s hits like "Cat Scratch Fever," a mildly frightening song by today's standards, has upped the fear factor manyfold with a pure gun rights stance. He has stayed true to his conviction after many, many, many, many national gun tragedies, which some pundits might applaud as a true example of principle were it not for the fact that Ted Nugent seems to want to kill us.
"The gun imagery. The dead deer. The seeming indifference to suffering ..." notes criminologist Kay Stephens. "I mean, Ted is too functional to be called mentally deranged. But I think we have to thank God or providence that he really stops just short of the DSM manual."
"Three hundred million American guns were not misused again this week," Nugent boldly proclaimed on his Twitter page shortly after a national tragedy involving lots of innocent gun victims, the stance of an empathy-lacking person who some psychologists might say really wants to kill us.
"The thing is, Ted's a libertarian," says Fox News pundit Bill Richardson. "We have to remember that his ideology, like those of other libertarians, lives entirely in pure abstraction. So it's wrong to say that Ted might have homicidal ideation and might want to kill us. We just have to assume that his world of pure principles devoid of real life ramifications will remain so, barring the mutilating of animals, and thus would not otherwise somehow turn into direct action that ends our lives."
Richardson concedes, however, that Nugent's inability to synthesize other perspectives, along with all his gun pictures "makes me wet the bed sometimes."
This is all just silly talk says Nugent friend Arthur Bronstein. "Ted is passionate about the individual and the idea that power truly resides in the people in the form of gun ownership as an underpinning of our freedom in nature. Obviously, as Ted has demonstrated over and over to those who don't understand, man must have the ability to fight back against that nature, which can be cruel, violent, animalistic, chaotic, sadistic, inhumane, nihilistic ...
"Anarchistic, bloody, hebephrenic, echolalic, grinding, perverted, angry, lacerating ..."
"Apocalyptic, terrifying, diseased and filled with zombie-men covered in festering buboes. Also, he thinks we should lower marginal tax rates."
Child psychologists, noting his propensity for illegal hunting and killing endangered species, have kept open hotlines for parents wondering what to tell their children about whether Ted Nugent might kill them.
"We have to stress that Ted Nugent is just stating his opinions, forcefully," says psychologist Blaine Thompkins. "Just because he brandishes weapons all the time in a very Phil Spectorish way, seems to enjoy the thought of what he would do to criminals that exist only in his imagination, and finally, seems greatly to enjoy ending the lives of elk does not mean in any way that he would ever harm others. Just because he often promotes the idea that some groups are superior to others does not mean he would take their lives. Just because he can threaten the president with oral gun rape and not be punished doesn't mean murder of other humans is the end game. The chances are very small. I mean, statistically it's just not likely. I mean, he would have done it by now, right?"
Nugent's friends and acquaintances agree: He does not compromise.
"That makes him a hero to many people," says Denver gun store owner Dave Stevens, who sells Gold Tip Ted Nugent arrows for hunting. "A man who doesn't compromise will always stand up for his principles. He will not be diluted. He will not hear the other side or seem to be able to emotionally process what other people need or want from him. He will not feedback other people's affect or be able to read their body language to make any kind of judgment about whether they are, say, hemorrhaging. If they hurt or are bleeding from the eyes and mouth, he will not be distracted by that. One word: Hero."
When Stevens heard Nugent was coming, he dived under a counter.